Minutes of the All Party Group for Reserve Forces and Cadets Meeting on 28th June 2011
Minutes of the All Party Group for Reserve Forces and Cadets Meeting on 28th June 2011
Guest Speaker: Brigadier James Plastow, MoD – Defence Youth Engagement Study
Julian Brazier MP - Chairman
Madeleine Moon MP - Vice Chairman
James Arbuthnot MP
Mark Francois MP
Julian Lewis MP
Bob Ainsworth MP
Col (Retd) Hugh Purcell - Honorary Clerk
Maj Gen Greg Smith MoD
Cdr Paul Haines MoD
Martin Coles MSSC
Madeleine Moon MP Chaired the meeting
The Chairman opened the meeting by welcoming Brigadier Plastow, who leads the MoD Youth Engagement Review study, and asked him to make his presentation.
Brigadier Plastow began with the reasons the review had been commissioned: Defence had been doing a significant amount of youth engagement in schools and communities, on the web and in the media. In schools this involved presentations, awareness, personal development and career advice. In the community there were recruiting fairs and people had been taken on visits to Service locations or to attend military events. Regarding Defence context, he said an assessment had shown that although 660,000 young people had had contact with the cadet movement, it was badly coordinated, with a limited focus on output and little understanding about what each activity was designed to do. Such engagement was vulnerable to financial pressures and as money was reduced, locations were closing and activities were being reduced. Nor was this approach, while it remained under separate control, sufficiently responsive to national and regional government developments. Within the ‘Big Society’ was the idea of more regional pull rather than central direction and a shift of emphasis from Whitehall to local communities. It was therefore imperative to improve influence in the regions, recognising that each was different. It was also important for Defence to improve its promotion of the benefits of youth engagement and the accompanying skills; its ability to respond to initiatives; its understanding of school developments; and to demonstrate better cost effectiveness. A stronger cadet voice under more formal support arrangements was needed and thus he had been tasked to concentrate between the ages of 12-18 and not to look at universities, which were subject to a separate review.
Because of the financial climate Defence needed to deliver output more effectively at reduced cost and the cadet forces would be more cost effective if they worked more closely together. Many questions remained, particularly as the armed forces were focussing more on operations and unofficial support to cadets, critical in sustaining the movement, was drying up. Cadets were slipping down their agenda and therefore there was a need to stiffen the cadet voice and have more formal arrangements for cadet support. With so much required of the Services, they were asking what was core and needed to be done, and whether 45,000 Army cadets were justified. In order to articulate Defence’s requirement he had mapped activity onto outputs, looked at the value of each activity and then placed them in a Venn diagram, covering awareness, recruitment and development. A strategy of prevention was better than one of cure and Defence was interested in developing activity in schools and, in particular, academies where head teachers had a greater say in the curriculum. It was important to be able to translate what the cadet movement did into credible benefits, such as the BTEC at 16.
The public needed to be made aware of the armed forces to have a favourable impression and the forces needed good people; therefore much engagement was done to promote youth development as the skills could make a real difference to the young people they needed to recruit. Mapping the value of each activity in relation to the desired end was complex, but looking at awareness ‘in the round’, having a favourable impression and understanding of, and being pre-disposed to serve in the armed forces, was an outcome Defence wanted – and it could be achieved. This effort was led by Media & Communications with recruitment playing a part, but in reality it was a low priority. Awareness needed more horsepower with messages drawn together more coherently. Recruiting was also a clear Defence output and efforts were in hand to draw together the Services’ recruiting efforts. Expanding on this, he listed youth engagement outputs as:
Supportive youth (awareness)
Youth with military aptitude (recruitment)
Recruits for the Armed Forces (recruitment)
Youth with improved life prospects (development)
Improved communities (development)
Improved connection between Armed Forces and communities (awareness)
Enhanced public goodwill
As some youth with military aptitude was definitely wanted, he questioned whether the size of the cadet force should be proportionate to the size of its Service. The Army, Sea and the Australian Cadet ratios were about one cadet to every two Service persons, whereas the Air cadet ratio was 1 to 0.8. Although improving the lives of youth and communities was not a Defence responsibility, if it was to become one of its corporate social responsibilities, others would need to judge its success and contribute to the funding. In other words, the cadet forces should be more outward facing as some of these outputs were the business of other Departments.
Focussing on cadets, he stated that there was fantastic work going on. The cadet programme amounted to some 50 to 60 days a year for over 140,000 young people; involved huge commitment from volunteers and for some it proved life changing. However, the rationale for the output was not credible, nor was it well understood inside or outside Defence and he did not want it to remain ‘a best kept secret’. There were four different operating models, this caused confusion, made it difficult for schools and did not feel cost effective. It was also unresponsive to national initiatives and regional needs and difficult for those wanting to change direction. He had four key questions:
The extent of working together
The relationship between Service and cadet force
The role and capacity of the volunteer
The best HQ and support arrangement
He had then made some principal deductions. Working together or being more joined up, was the first. Here there was a philosophical point that was at its most extreme with the Sea Cadets. While the Marine Society & Sea Cadets, a charity that brought in around £8m a year, argued that it was best to remain independent, the Sea cadets were still dependent on 65 pence in the pound from Defence while the remaining 92% of the cadet forces were largely publicly funded. His analysis had tended to focus on what the best balance might be and there was certainly a need for all the cadet forces to be more outward facing. A common approach, programme and benefits framework would help Defence to get its message across better. Separate policies were also causing problems within CCFs, but it was clear that most could quite easily be made common as matters such as safeguarding and risk assessment lent themselves to common policies. These common policies would open the way to joint and joined up support in the regions involving the sharing, or more efficient use, of buildings, equipment, administration and weapons. There might also be advantage in being a step removed from one’s Service, as in the Sea Cadet model. If it was not a core task it tended to be a low priority and where the Service carried the risk it tended to be over cautious, sending out ill thought through regulations that did not always apply to cadets. He was therefore looking at whether a separate policy could be worked out just for cadets that kept the Service associated, but having a seat on the board rather than having to chair it.
He thought that being better connected to each other would help the approach to local authorities, schools, national and regional initiatives and foster a better understanding of the skills framework. The challenge was to find a credible organisation to bring it all together and represent it in the regions at local level and here he thought the RFCAs could play a role.
Regarding volunteer-run activities, there were too many permanent staff jobs when there were competent volunteers who could be empowered to manage. The permanent staff could then be used differently in support and to provide assurance, which was already happening in some areas, but not in all. It was difficult to evaluate cost effectiveness when there were permanent staff and 24,000 volunteers in the mix. The contribution of the latter was difficult to estimate and he was still to work out what would happen if there were fewer permanent staff. His main deductions were that a framework was needed that linked public money to output and optimised the use of the permanent staff. There was a case for the Army and Air cadets, while remaining publicly funded, to work harder at donations, partnerships, sponsorship and obtaining funding from OGDs. There was also a need for more consistency in parental contributions.
Mechanisms for the better use of the Estate would be subject to the outcome of the Future Reserve 2020 Review. He thought work would result during the delivery stages and there were some 3,500 units across the country where more sharing could be done with the Reserves and other youth organisations. They needed to find a mechanism that would incentivise the cadets to do this and it would then happen naturally.
He had arrived at four structural options, all representing change at the bottom end and a cadet centre would still expect to have Sea, Army and RAF cadets with volunteers, but there was scope to do things more efficiently.
Option 1 was to make no change and just tighten up around the edges.
Option 2 was to force more cooperation, particularly between the Army and Air Force, who between them were responsible for 92% of the cadets. However, it would be difficult to make this happen without threatening their funding, or applying a similar sanction.
Option 3 was to retain separate, thinner structures and have a third party draw together the policies and provide the support.
Option 4 was a joint central HQ with joint regional HQs around the country, each with Service representation.
When it came to negotiating with stakeholders, he thought Option 2 offered a good start point and he was working on this. It would need a powerful Centre lead to make it happen and the appointment of local champions to get to grips with local authorities and schools. Pushing through some early enablers such as the MIS system, revised volunteer terms of service and sharing of the estate would help, and he was also considering support contracts for things like weapons; Contractors already provide weapons for some cadets and the scheme could be expanded.
He thought there would be advantage in having a single MoD body to provide the higher level engagement with youth, look after key policies on welfare, education and safeguarding, commission services and make sure that all the Defence organisations for young people were compliant. This could be a small body that could also provide a good interface with OGDs.
In conclusion, he stated that he hoped to present his initial findings to the MoD Youth & Cadet Steering Group the following week, when he expected to be given instructions to refine elements.
The Chairman thanked the Brigadier for his presentation, adding that in her constituency there was no armed forces’ footprint and the local population only had veterans and cadets with whom to interface. They were now in that season where every Sunday another mayor had their civic service where cadets would be present. Being a coastal constituency, there were Sea Cadets but she did not know how many had joined the Navy; however, many joined the Coastguard and the RNLI. She also knew others who had chosen to join the Reserves rather than the Regular Forces and she stressed that one could not underestimate the impact of the involvement of cadets in local communities.
Question 1 – Julian Brazier MP said there was material in the presentation that left one asking why this had not happened a long time ago. He had concerns about the deduction on external funding and it was difficult to see where it fitted. He thought it anomalous that his local Sea Cadet unit, with 100% impoverished parents, had to stand in the cold gathering money in tins, when his Air Cadets, with virtually 100% middle class parents, appeared to have it all paid for by the RAF. Second, he thought that bringing things together, meaning common policies and floating away from the Services, was a good idea, but he could not see how the principal deductions would take them there?
His second question concerned the reference to champions and the need for an external partner to pull it all together. The RFCAs already existed and maybe needed to be given a new role, but surely a new group of full time people was not needed?
Brigadier Plastow, in reply to the second question, explained that there was a MoD group called the Directorate for Children and Young People, headed by Linda Fisher, a 2 star. Her job had started life as Service Children’s Education and there were already staffs interested in the education and welfare of young people, the business of commissioning youth clubs and youth services throughout the country and junior soldiers and recruits. It would be a simple step to take an interest in youth-focussed cadet activities by making one person responsible for the whole of this area and not just one part of it, as was currently the case.
In reply to the first question he said it would depend on how MoD intended to generate external funding. He did not think the Army and Air cadets should do more tin rattling, but they should be going to local businesses and authorities to inform them of what they did and to seek sponsorship. He thought it was possible to work more closely with the public and to do things collectively and jointly, thus only one person was needed to produce a shooting policy and a flying policy.
Question 2 – In reply to Lord Rogan’s question on whether there was a figure for how much cadets cost, Brigadier Plastow replied that the figure was around £153m.
Lord Rogan then asked if local champions could be found through the RFCAs, who were in a good position to represent cadets.
Brigadier Plastow replied that he thought the cadet forces were not well equipped for this because they had no youth champions and he suspected that if they were to access local funding they would need more expertise. Gathering cadet leaders together within a region would provide more leverage, but the business of what was happening in schools had got more interesting and a number of community cadet forces were setting up in schools. Someone who understood the region was needed to negotiate this, they could not just be sent from London. He thought a reinforced RFCA could deliver this activity.
Question 3 – Mark Francois MP made the following points:
Firstly, he had noted that in some parts of the country there were unused TA centres and yet cadets who only met weekly were being housed separately half a mile down the road.
Secondly, he was massively pro the cadet units in his constituency and what they did and they were in some ways the ultimate answer to the cry that ‘there is nothing around here for young people to do’. He thought the MoD should provide more of an answer to that cry and he asked what links there were with other youth organisations such as the Scouts and where they existed, the Fire Service and Volunteer Police Cadets. He mentioned this because in some parts of Essex there were insufficient youth leaders to go round.
Thirdly, as there was much change going on in education, was there a drive to get cadets into the new schools and academies?
Brigadier Plastow replied that the answer to the second question was to be more outward facing, it was all about saying ‘where is my local scout unit and should we be sharing accommodation with them’ etcetera. Despite defence cadets being different to scouts, he would like to see more cooperation. There was some at national level through Youth United and much more in London through YOU, but he was not sure how long the former would continue.
On schools he reported that there was a fantastic set up in the east, where the Headmaster of the Walker Academy now had a CCF detachment set up in the middle of the school, which all his pupils were going to go through. A CCF normally had a part time staff instructor, but this Headmaster had nominated a member of staff to be a permanent instructor. This raised the question of how many other opportunities were out there.
Colonel Purcell, as Chairman YOU London, a member of the Youth Research Forum (YRF) and Chief Executive of the RFCA for Greater London, added that there were endless examples of cooperation and sharing in London and it went further than youth. He was working with the NHS Armed Forces Network in London to encourage veterans’ associations and associated charities to do likewise and he was also looking at where OGDs could unlock or release more value. He absolutely disagreed with the cry that ‘there is nothing for young people to do’, as there was a multitude of facilities available if people knew where they were and those who occupied them were prepared to share. 25% of the YOU target audience was NEET and as a result they had attracted £1.35m from the Treasury through the Mayor of London, plus £120k from the Metropolitan Police Service to support a three-year programme of expansion. Sadly, in the case of the military in the short term it would largely be for sustainability rather than expansion but, as YOU had proved, it was possible to source funding from local government and therefore expansion might yet be possible. On schools, he said that representative CCFs were members of the GL RFCA tri-Service committee and as a result of Gordon Brown’s London Challenge, 12 of London’s 32 CCFs were now linked with local State schools. This linkage was proving to be a cracking success. It could be done, he added; the models are there. GL RFCA was also working with academies: the Army Cadet detachment in Bermondsey had been forced to move and was now housed in the Globe Academy in another part of Southwark: a Livery Company was installing IT for cadets put into an academy in Hammersmith and an ACF detachment would be put into the new Drapers’ Academy in East London, so again this could and was being done.
Julian Brazier MP made the point that London was leading the way and there was very good work going on.
Colonel Purcell added that cooperation could go wider and, wearing his YRF hat, he was in contact with Lord Ramsbotham concerning Youth Justice and young offender institutions – there were organisations across London that could be linked; the challenge was to join up the dots.
Question 4 – Bob Ainsworth MP said he fully agreed with the exploitation of educational facilities and outreach and thought that for too long there had been a fossilised approach to the use of such establishments. He thought that resistance to this was breaking down and people were now more interested in joining up and there were huge opportunities, particularly for cadets, which should not be underplayed. He did worry at the mention of outward facing and the belief that there was external money there to be tapped. He heard what Colonel Purcell had said, but asked if there was evidence that youth funding was available that was not being tapped into by the cadets.
Brigadier Plastow replied that outward facing was not just to seek external funding, but as half of the output was down to other people, these other people ought to be saying whether they did, or did not, want cadets. Defence needed to be able to justify to the community that cadets offered a beneficial experience and the qualifications that could be obtained were good and positive things. He said that the public should not expect the Army to deliver 45% of the funding and that cadets could, and should, raise more than the current 3%; however they had never been asked to do this. This would be something that would not change overnight but acknowledging the need to do more to seek out funds would be a great step forward.
Julian Brazier MP said that he loved this logic as one was getting an additional bonus because the forward facing stuff was not only bringing in money, but there were people out there looking to raise awareness of the value they were getting from the cadets. The case was even stronger for giving this role to the RFCAs because their membership included representatives of the local community who would be well placed to do this. A virtuous circle would then get going as one started to suck in other people who were interested in Youth. He went on to say that Colonel Purcell had a strong RFCA committee behind him that he suspected could act as a self-reinforcing model that would fit in with the Big Society principles of trying to get things done at the lowest possible level as well as making more use of volunteering. He thought that doing this through a bottom up organisation such as the RFCA, rather than trying to push people down from the MoD, would deliver the vision rather well.
The Chairman opened questions up to the floor.
Question 5 – Viscount Slim said that he had tremendous cooperation and help from four Ministers for Veterans and had told Andrew Robathan what he needed to do. The whole matter of veterans, of whatever age, was going from strength to the strength and the cadets he had dealt with were wonderful.
The Chairman asked Martin Coles if he would like to add anything as there had been several references to Sea Cadets.
Martin Coles replied that Brigadier Plastow had an unenviable task and he applauded the progress made and the support he had gathered for cadets, recognising that the movement was not core to defence. There were more opportunities for fund raising, not tin rattling, and so far this year the MSSC had raised some £2.5m towards a capital project. This proved it was possible, but one had to be clear about one’s focus and from where to draw money. Thus, MSSC focussed on the maritime sector, but many key people approached for funds had not wanted to be seen subsidising the Government. One needed a clear, charitable purpose not mixed up with a command model of efficiency bringing everything together, because the two, if one got it wrong, could work against each other. He supported outward facing in education; it was not necessarily about having a single syllabus, but about having a syllabus that consistently recognised qualifications crediting the fantastic work that was being done.
Maj Gen Smith said he thought civic service was what it was all about and also reminding the nation that it has armed forces and veterans and a connection with them. This was something of which we needed to constantly remind ourselves. Regarding the role of the RFCAs, he thought they had tremendous convening power at local level that Defence need to use and develop.
The Chairman said that in reminding communities that they had armed forces they also needed to understand that there was a cost and a need to fund them. She concluded by thanking everybody for attending, in particular Brigadier Plastow.
Col (Retd) Hugh Purcell OBE DL, Honorary Clerk to the APGRF&C.